Broom Jumping and the Never-Ending Battle of Black Authenticity

I have not seen Jumping the Broom. I figure I’ll start with that so if, later, I find out I’m wrong, I can say, “hey, I said I hadn’t seen it.”  Still based on the commercials and, well, pretty much every single black movie that’s been made in the last twenty years, I’m betting we can all tell what’s going to happen.  There’s some snotty black folks, there’s some “regular” black folks-because we all know, “poor/working class” is code for “regular” when we’re talking about us-and when they get together for the wedding of their children, high jinks occur!  Hell, I’m pretty sure Loretta Devine has purchased a half a dozen houses just playing this same sassy, all knowing, down home role.   Again,it looks like one of those by the numbers comedies that black Hollywood has churned out endlessly since the rise of Tyler Perry.

Where I think I’m having a problem specifically with this movie is with the symbolic conflict.  According to the film article in May’s Essence, the tension between the “uptown Watsons” and the “downtown Taylors” reaches a crisis point because Devine’s character, wants the children to respect their family tradition of jumping the broom and the hoity-toity Watsons don’t want to do it because it’s some “slave stuff.”

Okay…I call shenanigans. 

I’ve been to about two dozen weddings in the last twenty years and the only black folks I’ve ever even seen commemorating the slave tradition of jumping the broom have been college educated ones because, frankly, the vast majority of us all learned about it in an African-American studies class…in college!  Along with the significance of the broom jumping, I believe that many post-Civil Rights era age African-Americans were only exposed to cultural, historical and artistic aspects of the black experience in college.  Again, this marks another example of how, as a people, many of us have decided to delegitimize education by saying it disconnects us from blackness.   Logically though, college is one of the best opportunities that many of us have to fully explore the nuances and depths of what all African-Americans have brought to this country.  Frankly, I think it would be more believable if Devine’s family was against  the broom jumping for being some ol’ slave stuff and-bonus!-against Jah-zus!  (“Ain’t nobody in the Bible jump over no brooms!!!!”) But, again, I haven’t seen it so maybe I’m wrong.


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